The last time white rhinos were seen in the Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe was early 2000s. Imvelo Safari Lodges owns four camps in and around the very diverse Hwange National Park, and they have been committed to change this. But it’s not just a simple task of re-introducing rhino and then doing everything possible to protect them. The team recognize the importance of community investment, engagement and ownership in the project. This is where the Community Rhino Conservation Initiative (CRCI) comes in.
Today, most rhino conservation successes throughout Africa are on private land. CRCI’s Imvelo Ngamo Wildlife Sanctuary represents a massive paradigm shift, placing rhinos on community land with local communities as custodians.
“Our Imvelo Ngamo Wildlife Sanctuary is a perfect example of community-based conservation; local villages have given up prime grazing land for rhino conservation and re-introduction. This kind of conservation support from the community is unprecedented!” as quoted by Mark Butcher, our Imvelo Managing Director.
The rhinos are protected by a Community Wildlife Protection unit called The Cobras. All recruits are from the district and undergo months of intensive training.
A typical Cobra Ranger’s Day involves 12 hours of active duty; separated into two shifts of close quarter guarding, one at night one in the day, and two more shifts of duty on the Quick Reaction Force (QRF). When you’re on duty, you’ll be doing clearance patrols, electric fence checks, supplementary rhino feeding, close quarter guarding, talks to school kids and guiding both school tours and Imvelo’s guests in to see and experience our wonderful celebrity white rhino.
Guest at Imvelo’s Camelthorn Lodge or Bomani Tented Lodge are encouraged to visit the Sanctuary. Here they will tour the sanctuary headquarters where they will see a display of their skills and training. The visit also includes a walking tour which brings the guests up close to the rhinos.
All proceeds for the tour go back the local communities, who is committed to creating more sanctuaries on their communal lands with the ultimate goal of merging them into one large community-based conservancy. This will create a buffer zone between the Park and the community and will minimize human-wildlife conflict and maximise potential for socio-economic development based on tourism. For more information on one of the most exciting conservation and regeneration projects in Africa today, visit https://www.hwangecommunityrhino.com/